• Film reviews

    #487 – Mantera (2012)

    Mantera (2012)

    Film review #487

    Director: Aliyar Ali Kutty, Miza Mohamad

    SYNOPSIS: At the Weston Technologies research lab, a prototype exosuit is destroyed and the lead researcher is kidnapped. The remnants are accidentally shipped to a high school student named Azman, a computer genius. Unsure of what has been delivered to him, he asks his friend to help rebuild it, and they find it is a motorcycle that turns into an armoured exosuit. As Azman gets used to this new power, he quickly finds himself caught up in a battle of good and evil for the fate of the world…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Mantera is a 2012 science-fiction film. The film opens up with a break-in at a research laboratory, where a prototype exosuit armour is destroyed. The wrecked parts are shipped accidentally to high school student Azman, who reassembles the suit with the help of his friend, and gets dragged into a battle for the fate of the world: that’s a pretty threadbare explanation of the whole plot, but also captures everything you need to know. The whole film feels like something you’ve seen before: every scene feels like it’s ripped off from a better movie. There’s superhero themes and adolescent drama which makes me think of the Raimi Spider-Man films above everything else. Nothing about the story is believable: the “accidental” shipping of a prototype exosuit of armour to a high school student (which the film handwaves away later as some form of destiny), and the appearance of the love interest, who straight away remarks she is a robotics expert and by amazing coincidence can help Azman to get the suit to work. Everything just falls into place a bit too easily, and makes the film always feel scripted, forcing everything to fit into the genres and movies the film is copying.

    The characters are, like the story, unoriginal and barely develop out of their foundational tropes. Azman is the typical nerdy high school student, his friend is a mechanic who it just so happens can rebuild the parts Azman was sent, and as mentioned Deena plays the romantic interest, and just so happens to be an expert in robotics to help Azman get the exosuit to work. The characters are just so conveniently placed within the film to justify the narrative that there’s no room for any development. The “mentor” type character also fulfils their role exactly as you’d expect, including being killed off near the end to give the main character motivation. The two secret organisations fighting for control of the world being the “Alliance of Light” and the “Legion of Darkness” is just so incredibly reductive and bereft of imagination that it is barely worth mentioning. The villain is just some guy who does a “Dr. Claw” and always has his back to the camera: I don’t think he’s actually any of the other characters, so hiding his identity is redundant, and also the film ends without him even meeting the hero, instead just promising “revenge” in a sequel which we never got. Utterly pointless.

    The effects and CG are all feel like a student’s university project: the exosuit is all CG, and moves awkwardly. Alongside this, the battles with it in are difficult to follow when the screen fills up with all the CG. The English audio dub is atrocious, with the characters all having very very cartoon-ish voices, like Azman’s best friend having the cool kid surfer accent, and the villain having the voice of a sandpapered throat. A lot of the sound effects are all stock sounds that you have probably heard many times before, and continue to add to that overall feeling of unoriginality and amateurism that constantly reminds you that you’ve seen everything done better in other films.